9 Ineffective Sales Tactics You Need to Avoid, According to Real Sales Leaders

Jay Fuchs
Jay Fuchs

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Welcome to "The Pipeline" — a new weekly column from HubSpot, featuring actionable advice and insight from real sales leaders.

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Sales professionals need to constantly adapt to emerging challenges and trends in the broader sales landscape. That often means remaining vigilant and adding certain strategies to their repertoires — but "adapting" isn't limited to "addition".

Sometimes, salespeople need to do a little subtraction — identifying unproductive strategies that can stymy their efforts and undermine their potential. To give you some perspective on what those can look like, we've reached out to some experts for their takes on sales tactics you should avoid, going forward.

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1. Over-Reliance on Case Studies

HubSpot Principal Sales Manager Dan McAdam offered some input — specifically about how sales reps leverage case studies. He says, "Sending case studies too early in the process or using them as a crutch is one that's always been a pet peeve of mine.

"Case studies are great for underscoring the value you can provide once you've dug in and figured out how your product or service solves the problem. They should be used to reinforce the value — not to handle objections at the beginning of the process or do the selling for you."

2. Holding Onto Outdated Positioning Statements

According to seasoned sales expert Korina Ortiz, sales professionals need to avoid holding onto outdated positioning statements. By her account, "These past few years have dramatically changed the challenges (and goals) that organizations are prioritizing."

She suggests that sales reps forget a lot of what they "know". Instead, she advises salespeople to "be 100% curious about their customers' new reality."

She says, "Reps need to understand how those customers have had to pivot in recent years, what they’ve had to reprioritize, and then figure out what can be done to help them pick up the pieces."

3. Relying Heavily on Discounts

Ortiz also warns against leaning on discounts. She says "It’s also important to know that putting the pressure on and relying heavily on discounts are some of the least effective strategies. Many companies aren’t really looking for a 'deal' — they’re looking to choose the right solution to help them both survive this period and future-proof their business."

4. Cold Calling

HubSpot Sales Director Dan Tyre suggests that cold calling's effectiveness is waning, and sales reps should consider avoiding it if they can.

He says, "Don't cold call anymore — cold calling returns about 1.25% yield if you take a list and indiscriminately call 100 people at random and say the same stupid script. You may want to adopt a sales strategy of warm calling, which is decidedly more evolved.

"This includes defining the niche where you add the most value, researching the contact before you pick up the phone, calling four times over 12 days to professionally pursue the prospect, and using video in your sales prospecting outreach."

5. Qualifying on the Connect Call

Tyre also insists sales reps should stop qualifying on connect calls. He says, "Don't qualify on the connect call — many sales methodologies suggest that you qualify the prospect the first time you engage on the phone to ensure you're not wasting your time. But things have changed.

"If you ask qualifying questions like 'Is this a priority? Do you have the budget? When will you make a decision?' on the connect call, you won't get far. The inbound methodology is all about helping, not putting someone in a sales funnel."

6. Neglecting Your Customers

Tyre also stressed the importance of giving existing customers the time of day. He says, "Don't neglect your customers — lots of salespeople close the deal and walk away. But your install base is the fruitful compost pile of your sales garden.

"Calling only when a renewal is due is so 2014. Set up four quarterly updates — if only for 15 minutes — with the client to check in every three months, create a quick agenda, consider using an NPS survey to gauge value, and make sure your customers have your cell number. And never forget to ask for referrals periodically."

7. Trying to Reinvent the Sales Wheel

HubSpot Mid-Market Sales Manager Coman Doyle suggests sales reps try to keep things simple. He says, "Don’t try to complicate things too much. Just because there is an economic, cultural, or social shift does not mean that you try and reinvent the sales wheel.

"You still have a product, service, or solution that helps companies overcome a challenge. The most successful sales organizations around the world stick to a basic sales process that is easy to install, learn, scale, and track."

8. Using Cookie Cutter Sales Pitches

Doyle also stresses the importance of avoiding generic pitches. He says, "This might sound counterintuitive, but don’t use a cookie-cutter ‘sales pitch’. The first step is to sincerely listen to what your prospect is saying. If you’re using a cookie-cutter sales ‘pitch’ you will alienate the prospect.

"You will probably irritate them into agreeing to the next steps, creating a false positive. However, if you actually listen and have a ‘heuristic sales pitch’ you will motivate them into wanting to progress with next steps and therefore create a net positive step."

9. Lazy Linking

Dave Meyer, President and Owner of BizzyWeb, also put in his two cents. He says, "One of the biggest things I see sales professionals do is what I call 'Lazy Linking' — or 'Linking without Thinking'. It's when people send lazy connection requests in LinkedIn or spam LinkedIn groups with self-serving posts that don't add value.

"Our job as sales professionals is to do the work to be legitimately helpful to our prospects. Sending dozens of connection requests — hitting them with the old 'Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn' — or buying an automation tool that fakes engagement is a big turnoff.

"Nobody likes spam, and it doesn't take much to make a personal connection. Like many agencies, our company has an 'About Us' page with small biographical tidbits. One time, a sales professional read through my bio, discovered that I like Nerds candy, and sent me a 2-pound bag with an invitation to connect. Now that stands out!"

There's no telling what the future sales landscape will look like, but that doesn't mean you can't make some educated adjustments to approach it more effectively. Refining your sales game means trimming some fat. If you're looking for a good place to start, consider the points on this list.

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